Hopkinson also designed a seal for the Admiralty Navy , which incorporated a chevron consisting of seven red stripes and six white ones.
Holding the document with one hand, the weighted arm of the press is pulled with the other, driving the die down onto the wafer, impressing the seal in relief.
When envelopes containing letters need to be sealed, the wafer is imprinted first and then glued to the sealed envelope. It is used approximately 2, to 3, times a year. Documents which require the seal include treaty ratifications, international agreements, appointments of ambassadors and civil officers, and communications from the President to heads of foreign governments.
The seal was once required on presidential proclamations , and on some now-obsolete documents such as exequaturs and Mediterranean passports. On July 4, , the same day that independence from Great Britain was declared by the thirteen states, the Continental Congress named the first committee to design a Great Seal, or national emblem, for the country. Similar to other nations, the United States needed an official symbol of sovereignty to formalize and seal or sign international treaties and transactions.
It took six years, three committees, and the contributions of fourteen men before the Congress finally accepted a design which included elements proposed by each of the three committees in While they were three of the five primary authors of the Declaration of Independence , they had little experience in heraldry and sought the help of Pierre Eugene du Simitiere , an artist living in Philadelphia who would later also design the state seals of Delaware and New Jersey and start a museum of the Revolutionary War.
Each of these men proposed a design for the seal. Franklin chose an allegorical scene from Exodus , described in his notes as " Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand.
Adams chose a painting known as the "Judgment of Hercules" where the young Hercules must choose to travel either on the flowery path of self-indulgence or the rugged, more difficult, uphill path of duty to others and honor to himself. In August , Du Simitière showed his design, which was more along conventional heraldic lines.
The shield had six sections, each representing "the Countries from which these States have been peopled" England , Scotland , Ireland , France , Germany , and Holland , surrounded by the initials of all thirteen states. The supporters were a female figure representing Liberty holding an anchor of hope and a spear with a cap , and on the other side an American soldier holding a rifle and tomahawk.
On August 20, , the committee presented their report to Congress. The committee members chose Du Simitière's design, though it was changed to remove the anchor of hope and replace the soldier with Lady Justice holding a sword and a balance. For the reverse, Franklin's design of Moses parting the Red Sea was used. Congress was however not impressed, and on the same day ordered that the report " lie on the table ", ending the work of the committee.
While the designs in their entirety were not used, the E Pluribus Unum motto was chosen for the final seal, and the reverse used the Roman numeral for and the Eye of Providence. Jefferson also liked Franklin's motto so much, he ended up using it on his personal seal. The motto was almost certainly taken from the title page of Gentleman's Magazine , a monthly magazine published in London which had used it from its first edition in , and was well known in the colonies.
The motto was taken in turn from Gentleman's Journal , a similar magazine which ran briefly from to While variants turn up in other places for example a poem often ascribed to Virgil called Moretum contains the phrase E Pluribus Unus , this is the oldest known use of the exact phrase.
The Eye of Providence had been a well-known classical symbol of the deity since at least the Renaissance , which Du Simitiere was familiar with. For three and a half years no further action was taken, during which time the Continental Congress was forced out of Philadelphia before returning in Like the first committee, they sought the help of someone more experienced in heraldry, this time Francis Hopkinson , who did most of the work.
Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the American flag,  and also helped design state and other government seals. He made two similar proposals, each having an obverse and reverse side, with themes of war and peace. Hopkinson's first design had a shield with thirteen diagonal red and white stripes, supported on one side by a figure bearing an olive branch and representing peace, and on the other an Indian warrior holding a bow and arrow, and holding a quiver.
The crest was a radiant constellation of thirteen stars. The motto was Bello vel pace paratus , meaning "prepared in war or in peace". The reverse, in Hopkinson's words, was "Liberty is seated in a chair holding an olive branch and her staff is topped by a Liberty cap. In his second proposal, the Indian warrior was replaced by a soldier holding a sword, and the motto was shortened to Bello vel paci , meaning "For war or for peace".
The committee chose the second version, and reported back to Congress on May 10, , six weeks after being formed. Their final blazon, printed in Congress journals on May 17, was: The Crest; a radiant Constellation of 13 Stars.
The motto, Bella vel Paci. As with the first design, several elements were eventually used in the final seal; the thirteen stripes on the shield with their colors, the constellation of stars surrounded by clouds, the olive branch, and the arrows from Hopkinson's first proposal.
The same note also used an Eye of Providence, taken from the first committee's design. The shield of the Great Seal has seven white stripes and six red ones—essentially, a white background with six red stripes. Hopkinson incorporated this stripe arrangement into the Great Seal from the Flag of the United States that he had designed. Hopkinson also designed a seal for the Admiralty Navy , which incorporated a chevron consisting of seven red stripes and six white ones.
The seven red stripes in his Admiralty seal reflected the number of red stripes in his Naval flag. When Hopkinson designed these flags, he was running the Navy as chairman of the Continental Navy Board.
Arthur Lee replaced Rutledge, although he was not officially appointed. As with the previous two committees, most of the work was delegated to a heraldic expert, this time year-old William Barton. Barton drew a design very quickly, using a rooster on the crest, but it was much too complex. No drawing of this design seems to have survived. Barton then came up with another design, which the committee submitted back to Congress on May 9, , just five days after being formed.
This time, the figures on each side of the shield were the " Genius of the American Confederated Republic" represented by a maiden, and on the other side an American warrior. At the top is an eagle and on the pillar in the shield is a "Phoenix in Flames". For the reverse, Barton used a pyramid of thirteen steps , with the radiant Eye of Providence overhead, and used the mottos Deo Favente "With God favoring" and Perennis Everlasting.
On June 13, , the Congress turned to its Secretary Charles Thomson , and provided all material submitted by the first three committees. Thomson used the eagle—this time specifying an American bald eagle —as the sole supporter on the shield. The shield had thirteen stripes, this time in a chevron pattern, and the eagle's claws held an olive branch and a bundle of thirteen arrows.
For the crest, he used Hopkinson's constellation of thirteen stars. The motto was E Pluribus Unum , taken from the first committee, and was on a scroll held in the eagle's beak. An eagle holding symbols of war and peace has a long history, and also echoed the second committee's themes. Franklin owned a emblem book , which included an eagle with olive branch and arrows near its talons, which may have been a source for Thomson.
The stripes on the shield were changed again, this time to " palewise " vertical , and the eagle's wing position was changed to "displayed" wingtips up instead of "rising". Barton also wrote a more properly heraldic blazon. The design was submitted to Congress on June 20, and was accepted the same day. Thomson included a page of explanatory notes, but no drawing was submitted. This remains the official definition of the Great Seal today.
The first brass die was cut sometime between June and September, and placed in the State House in Philadelphia. It was first used by Thomson on September 16, , to verify signatures on a document which authorized George Washington to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. Charles Thomson, as the Secretary of Congress, remained the keeper of the seal until the Federal government was formed in On September 15, , the United States Congress ordered "that the seal heretofore used by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be, and hereby is declared to be, the seal of the United States.
The metallic die of the obverse side of the Great Seal is what actually embosses the design onto documents. These dies eventually wear down, requiring replacements to be made. The current die is the seventh engraving of the seal, and the actual design on the dies has evolved over time. The first die depicts a relatively crude crested eagle, thin-legged and somewhat awkward.
There is no fruit on the olive branch, and the engraver added a border of acanthus leaves. The blazon does not specify the arrangement of the stars which were randomly placed in Thomson's sketch nor the number of points; the engraver chose six-pointed stars typical of English heraldry , and arranged them in a larger six-pointed star.
This first die was used until , and is now on display in the National Archives in Washington, D. There was no die made of the reverse side of the seal and in fact, one has never been made. The intended use was for pendant seals, which are discs of wax attached to the document by a cord or ribbon, and thus have two sides. However, the United States did not use pendant seals at the time, and there was no need for a die of the reverse.
In an essay published in Harper's from Bernard Lossing alluded to a version half the size for the purpose of impressing wax and paper. Shortly after the first die, the Congress of the Confederation ordered a smaller seal for the use of the President of the Congress. It was a small oval, with the crest from the Great Seal the radiant constellation of thirteen stars surrounded by clouds in the center, with the motto E Pluribus Unum above it.
Benson Lossing claimed it was used by all the Presidents of the Congress after , probably to seal envelopes on correspondence sent to the Congress, though only examples from Thomas Mifflin are documented. This seal's use apparently did not pass over to the new government in Today's Seal of the President of the United States , which developed by custom over a long period before being defined in law, is a more full-featured version of the Great Seal.
Starting with the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent , the United States began to use pendant seals on treaties, where the seal is impressed onto a separate wax disc and attached to the document with cords.
Although the reverse side of the seal was designed for this purpose, a die was still not made but rather the obverse was impressed on one side only using the regular die.
However, this did not conform to the European tradition of using much larger seals for treaties. To address this, Seraphim Masi of Washington D. He also added fruits to the olive branch, changed the shape of the shield, and depicted the crest differently though using the same arrangement of six-pointed stars.
These seals were transported in metallic boxes called skippets, which protected the actual wax seal from damage. The skippets themselves also were engraved with the seal design. Several skippets were made at a time, which the State Department used as needed. Usually skippets were made out of sterling silver , though for the Japanese treaty following Commodore Perry 's mission a golden box was used the ratification of that treaty, made later in , had an even more elaborate and expensive seal and heavy gold skippet.
The Masi treaty die was used until , almost exclusively for treaties, at which point the U. The die is also currently on display at the National Archives.
At least one treaty seal was actually made using a Lewis skippet mold instead of the Masi die, meaning it too is technically an official die. Over time, the original seal became worn and needed to be replaced. Throop also chose to use five-pointed stars, though kept the six-pointed star arrangement, a change which has continued in all subsequent dies.
Other changes include a more vigorous and uncrested eagle, the removal of the acanthus leaves, a general crowding of the design upward, a different shape to the shield, and fruit on the olive branch four olives.
In , the first counterdie was made, which is the same design in opposite relief. The paper was placed between the die and counterdie, resulting in a sharper impression in the paper than from one die alone. The use of counterdies continues to this day. The United States Centennial in had renewed interest in national symbols, and articles appeared noting the irregularities in the seal. The new die was engraved by Herman Baumgarten of Washington, D. His version followed the die very closely, including the errors, and was the same size.
The most notable differences were slightly larger stars and lettering. The workmanship on the die was relatively poor, with no impression being very clear, and it is considered the poorest of all Great Seal dies. By early the State Department started responding to criticism of the seal,  resulting first in an centennial commemorative medal, and then with Secretary of State Frederick Frelinghuysen asking for funds to create a new design and dies of both the obverse and reverse on January 11, , after getting estimates of the cost.
He brought in several consultants to consider a design from historical, heraldic, and artistic points of view. On December 13, , following much research and discussion among the group, Whitehouse submitted his designs. The result was a much more formal and heraldic look, completely different from previous dies, and has remained essentially unchanged since. The eagle is a great deal more robust, and clutches the olive branch and arrows from behind.
The 13 arrows were restored, in accordance with the original law, and the olive branch was depicted with 13 leaves and 13 olives. The clouds surrounding the constellation were made a complete circle for the first time. In a letter accompanying their designs, Tiffany gave their reasonings behind various elements. The eagle was made as realistic as the rules of heraldry would permit, and the scroll style was chosen to least interfere with the eagle.
There were no stars in the chief the area at the top of the shield , as is sometimes seen, as there are none specified in the blazon and thus including them would violate the rules of heraldry. Some had suggested allowing the rays of the sun to extend through the clouds, as appears to be specified in the original law and sometimes seen in other versions, but Whitehouse rejected that idea and kept with the traditional die representation.
He also considered adding flowers to the olive branch, but decided against it, as "the unspecified number of flowers would be assumed to mean something when it would not". Tiffany also submitted a design for the reverse of the seal, but even though Congress had ordered one a die was not created.
The members of the consulting group were somewhat disparaging of the design of even the obverse, but especially critical of the reverse, and suggested not making it at all. Dwight eventually agreed and did not order the die, though he said it was "not improper" that one eventually be made.
After only 17 years, the seal was no longer making a good impression probably due to a worn counterdie. There was some discussion among State Department officials whether to redo the design again, but given the thought that had gone into the version, it was decided to recreate that design.
Congress renewed the law on March 3, , since no action had yet been taken, and this time specified that it be recut from the existing model which ended any further discussion.
There were slight differences; the impressions were sharper, the feathers more pointed, and the talons have shorter joints. Also, two small heraldic errors which had persisted on all previous seal dies were fixed: The die was first used on January 26, , and was used for 26 years.
All dies made since have followed exactly the same design, and in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing made a master die from which all future dies will be made. In Palemon Howard Dorsett, a lifelong Department of Agriculture employee, turned up at the Department of State with a metal die engraved with the Great Seal, claiming it had originally been given to his family by a nephew of George Washington.
It was examined by Gaillard Hunt , the author of a pamphlet on the Great Seal, who agreed that it appeared to be contemporaneous with the original seal, but he took no further interest in the matter. Decades later, in , Dorsett wrote again regarding his die, and this time it was investigated more thoroughly. It is a very similar design to the first Great Seal die and obviously copied from it, even including a border of acanthus leaves.
The eagle was different though, being more spirited with its wings more widely spread. More significantly, the arrows and the olive branch are switched, indicating an intentional " difference " to distinguish it from the actual Great Seal. It is the same size as the first die, and is made of bronze. There was no indication that it could actually be used in a seal press, and a search of government documents showed no use of the seal anywhere.
The investigation also turned up some facts that supported Dorsett's story: Afterwards Dorsett lent his seal to Mount Vernon , and his heirs made it a donation. It was eventually put on display in a museum there. The origins and purpose of this die remain unknown. Both Hunt and the authors of Eagle and the Shield speculate it was meant to be used by either the President of the Congress or later by the President of the United States, but there is no other evidence to support this. They were made of silver-plated lead, which is sometimes used as an engraving test since it is a cheaper metal.
The Great Seal very quickly became a popular symbol of the country. Combined with the heraldic tradition of artistic freedom so long as the particulars of the blazon are followed, a wide variety of official and unofficial emblazonments appeared, especially in the first hundred years.
This is evident even in the different versions of the seal die. The quality of the design, coupled with a spirit of bureaucratic standardization that characterized that era, has driven most of these out of official use. In , for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine , Philadelphia engraver James Trenchard wrote articles on the obverse in September and reverse in October of the Great Seal, and each issue included a full-page engraving of his own original version of the discussed side of the seal.
The project apparently was aided by William Barton, as the official law was printed along with supplemental notes from Barton. Trenchard's obverse featured randomly placed stars, like Thomson's drawing, and had the rays of the glory extending beyond the clouds upward, with the clouds themselves being in an arc. The reverse also followed the blazon carefully, and featured an elongated pyramid with the requisite mottos and the Eye of Providence a right eye, unlike versions that followed.
While not official, Trenchard's depiction had an obvious influence on subsequent official versions, and was the first known public rendering of the reverse side and only one for many years.
Paul's Chapel in New York City has a large oil painting of the national coat of arms, believed installed sometime in It was commissioned on October 7, , not long after the Congress of the Confederation began meeting in nearby Federal Hall. The painting hangs over Washington's pew, across the room from a painting of the arms of New York over the Governor's pew. The painting has many similarities to Trenchard's version or vice versa depending on which came first , including the random placement of stars and details of the eagle.
The clouds are in a full circle, though, instead of an arc, and the rays extend beyond them in all directions. The shield has a gold chain border with a badge at the bottom. This is the earliest known full-color version of the seal design, and the artist is unknown. European powers had traditionally given "peace medals" to Native American Indians in an attempt to curry favor, and the newly created United States followed suit.
On April 28, , the Congress authorized creation of Indian Peace Medals with the coat of arms obverse of the Great Seal on one side, and various designs on the other. The medals were typically oval and made of silver, and were fairly large.
The design of the arms on these medals, made by the U. Mint, follow the Trenchard design very closely. We're the value adding partner to the global apparel industry, providing leading products, solutions and technical services. Our specially designed products and solutions meet the demands of footwear manufacture, improving your productivity and speed to market. Find out how we can support you. For more about Software Solutions. Our unique proprietary metal-replacement technology offers innovative lightweight design of automotive and other structural components at low cost.
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